The Jockey Club announces project to identify at-risk racehorses

The Jockey Club announces project to identify at-risk racehorses

Sep 01, 2012

In June, The Jockey Club announced plans to develop a statistics-based system that would notify track officials and regulatory veterinarians when a horse that has been entered in a race is facing a heightened risk of injury. The Jockey Club hired Tim Parkin, BSc, BVSc, PhD, DECVPH, MRCVS, University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine, to develop these at-risk protocols, based on the Equine Injury Database (EID). The project is expected to be complete in August 2012.

Parkin says the project provides an opportunity to identify the top risk profiles and focus interventions on the horses that fit those profiles. "With this system in place, we can identify the population of horses at markedly increased risk and potentially implement measures to mitigate that risk," he says.

According to The Jockey Club, using data from the EID, racing officials and regulatory veterinarians would receive automatic notifications from racing office software tools provided by InCompass Solutions Inc. The alerts would indicate, based on statistical analysis of patterns in past performances, when a horse presented a heightened risk of injury and needed a closer inspection. Those notices would be sent to regulatory veterinarians and racing office personnel at the racetrack.

"This development has the potential to be among the most significant advances in the safety of equine and human athletes," says James Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. "It's only possible because of the participation by racetracks in the EID, which now contains approximately 37,000 injury reports from 86 tracks, representing more than 92 percent of North American racing days."

The Jockey Club, through InCompass, will provide these tools to racetrack and regulatory officials for no additional fee and will be collaborating with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to develop the examination protocols that would assist regulatory veterinarians dealing with horses deemed at-risk.

Developing protocols

Larry Bramlage, DVM, DACVS, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and member of the Jockey Club EID Committee, says the endgame of the EID was always to try to learn enough about the injuries so that they can be prevented, not just documented after they occurred. During various meetings, discussions and conference calls with Parkin, the Jockey Club EID Committee asked him to look for specific parameters within the database that they might be able to use to determine which factors they could monitor.

The Jockey Club provided EID data for Parkin to analyze. This data was from Thoroughbred racehorses in North America and the corresponding control data from Equibase, which encompasses all of the starts that occurred during the same time interval. EID data is information collected relevant to cases in which regulatory veterinarians are required to intervene. It encompasses pre-race exam scratches to racing injuries and fatalities. But, for the purpose of this work, Parkin's risk factor identification is those of fatal cases only.

Fatalities were the case population, and the control population included all of the race starts made by horses during that same time period—about 1.5 million race starts.